All I Know³
Information, transmission, modulation, and noise – 3rd Edition


(It’s been maybe 5 years this blog has been dormant. Dreaded FaceBook has taken some of the immediacy away from writing a blog. But I’ve decided, just now, to start anew. This time (maybe) documenting what’s on my mind. This could be interesting, at least to me.)

A few nights ago, I woke up, wide awake, at 4am, and couldn’t get back to sleep. Medications I am taking for an infection was probably the culprit. Doctor said it might mess up my sleep patterns. Luckily the infection and the sleep issues have gone away, except for one disturbing incident.

That night, for some reason still not clear to me, I couldn’t remember the name of those little birds with a long skinny beak and wings that flap so fast you can’t see them, giving them the ability to seemingly hover stationary in the air. Every time I tried to retrieve the name, I drew a blank. Uh oh. Could this be a sign? It kept me awake, trying all sorts of tricks short of getting up and Googling it. But nothing came to mind.

Now, when you’re my age, in that pre-baby-boomer generation that is hurtling into their mid 70s and early 80s, reminders  of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, strokes, and other failures of the mind are everywhere in the media and talked about with friends. Try to ignore it, but you can’t. Besides, after 7 decades, any symptom that hits you that you’ve never experienced before is something to worry about. Like age; I’ve never been this old before.

Well, it kept me up that night. Then I thought: this is silly. So I did get up, sat on the couch and read a math book–my usual recipe for falling asleep. But the book was too interesting, and it wasn’t til almost 6 that I went back to bed. Slept til 9. In the shower, I tried again to retrieve that missing word. Still nothing! Yikes. This is not some obscure thing. It’s that bird out there. We even have a feeder for it. But, I was not going to let me get anxious or worry about the state of my mind, and resolved to ignore it and go on with the day.

Later, at dinner, Victoria was looking out the kitchen window. “Have you seen any hummingbird’s lately? Maybe I need to refill the feeder.”

HUMMINGBIRD!  Of course!

But, then the secondary effect came full force. That can’t be the right word, my right brain immediately told myself. That’s not even a word. It was as if I was seeing the word for the very first time, like some sort of Secondary Effect. Luckily it lasted only a second and my left brain came to the rescue: Of course it’s the right word. And here it is in your memory store, a little messed up and torn, but I’ll just rewrite the mental image and it will be as good as new. No worries.

How strange. Everyone has these sorts of lapses, or so they tell me. Still, I try really hard to keep my brain exercised. I read a lot. And I’m still working in high tech as a freelancer, altho I’ve been careful not to get too deep into it, not being sure about the actual return on mental investment. Still, there are somethings I keep coming back to. I learned calculus and advanced calc 60 years ago. It’s still my favorite subject, and historically beautiful, altho I never needed it much beyond a casual acquaintance in my career as a computer programmer and tech writer. Still it’s that math book I keep going back to. And someday I promise I will understand Maxwell’s equations. But that’s another story.

Clearly, we are no longer who we once were. In my 20s, in the mid 1960s, I wore 28×30 jeans. Now it’s more like 34×30. I seem to have grown horizontally, but not vertically. We start noting the things we once did with ease that are no longer easy and now require some effort, or must be avoided. Last time at Mt Blanc and the Jungfrau, I could barely deal with the altitude. Same with Denver more recently. This was never an issue 40 years ago.

But, no worries.


Mahler Seventh!

Went to Thursday’s SF Symphony performance of the Mahler 7th.

It is impossible to understand this work (or any of Gustav Mahler’s music) without an understanding of the context — Vienna 1900. And to my ears, the 7th is all about fin de siecle weltschmerz. Or weMahler7ltschmaltz. But what an amazing work it is, if only for the extreme ranges it covers in any dimension you care to look, or listen.

Northern Europe in 1900 was a contradiction on all fronts that eventually led to two devastating tragedies by 1945. But the breathtaking changes in the arts, sciences, and society that took place in the forty years from 1880 to 1920 seem incomprehensible today.

I discovered Mahler’s symphonies when I was about 9. My dad had an early LP of the 5th conducted by Scherchen (probably the best performance). And the 4th with Walter and soprano Desi Halban. I was amazed by the sheer sound of the full orchestra, and immediately became a Mahlerite. It wasn’t until my teens that I discovered the 7th. Rarely performed, I think it is too often overlooked.

The 7th ranges from the deeply profound to the heights of bombast in the blink of an eye. It’s got all the typical Mahlerian traits: brass band marches, yodeling and faux country-folksy music, klezmer dooby-dooby-dos, cow bells, church bells, and even a mandolin solo. In five movements, the orchestral writing is staggering. I keep imagining Gus sitting in his summer composing cabin in the Alps writing furiously all those notes. So many many notes! How is this possible? To anyone who’s looked at the score, the effort seems almost inhuman. (

The 7th is extremely manic, obsessive, hyperactive, turgid, and oceanic all at once, switching back and forth without warning. It leaves you breathless.

The full orchestra was on stage. 8 double basses, a full complement of brass, including the wonderful baritone tuba that, along with trombones are featured as solo instruments throughout. There were so many people on stage that the layout was very different — 1st violins to the left, 2nds to the right, percussion all along the back wall; basses on the left, brass on the right, violas and cellos in the middle left, woodwinds middle right; and in front of the percussion in the center, the mandolin and guitar players. And everyone got to play! It’s a fantastic piece for orchestra. And what a sound they made!

Mahler unashamedly borrows from his earlier music and even from the music he hadn’t even written yet. I could hear ghosts of the 10th symphony in the fourth movement, and just about every other symphony splattered here and there. There even seemed to be a quote from Richard Strauss! Incredible! Mahler was the Charles Ives of MittelEuropa. At any moment I expected to hear Columbia Gem of the Ocean! (Altho the 7th was the only work on the program with no intermission, I kinda wish MTT had programmed the Ives 4th for the second half! )

MTT conducts a “young man’s Mahler”. It’s swift and full, not plodding or self-reflective. Much more extroverted and athletic version than Walter or Scherchen,or even Bernstein’s. I have to say that I do prefer those more introverted interpretations. I would want to hear a softer, more nuanced performance. But MTT and the orchestra got the work done. And everyone jumped to their feet at the end of the last movement, where everything is whirling around and suddenly it all comes to a full stop!

Seventh symphonies have a great lineage. Beethoven, Mahler, Bruckner, and Sibelius sevenths are all masterpieces. Thanks to MTT and the SFSO for a spectacular evening. I tried to imagine what it might have been like walking out in the Vienna streets after the premier of the 7th in 1905. I tried but I couldn’t. Van Ness is not the Ringstrasse. And we are so far far away in space/time from Vienna 1900.

Testing 1-2-3-4

Just updated this blog to the latest WordPress version. And one never knows for sure if it will still work.

Seems to be ok. Can you tell the difference?

I admit, things have been very quiet over here.

Maybe it’s time to pull the plug. Run out of things to say.

White House Photos on Flickr


Pete Souza is the official White House photographer, and a steady stream of his photos are on Flickr. Considering the nature of the subject matter and the situation, Souza’s work is incredible. And, the fact that this daily stream of images is available and public is equally amazing. Those not-so-professional photographers among us can learn a lot by looking at these images! Also, having these pictures, all digital, on Flickr means you can look at the EXIF metadata and see all the details. For instance, Souza uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 800 ISO, a 50mm f/1.2 lens. You can view the EXIF data of any image from the Actions pull-down menu.

For example: P070711PS-0386 (click on image)

These images are amazing, because none are posed or staged. This is life as it is happening. Amateur photographers should look very carefully at these images. There is a lot to learn about framing and, from the EXIF data, the actual mechanics of taking pictures. Notice for one thing how few of these indoor images are taken with a flash. Souza sets his camera ISO to 800 indoors, 200 on a sunny day outdoors, 400 on a cloudy day, and 1600 to 4000 at night or in dark rooms. My favorite (so far, since I haven’t see all these images yet), is this one:


Exposure	0.017 sec (1/60)
Aperture	f/1.6
Focal Length	35 mm
ISO Speed	4000

My Life As A Programmer – The Early Years

My Forty Years With Computers

Spring (2005) was the 40th anniversary of my first real job.

(This is republished from some blog entries at I wanted to preserve these notes, since that blog is now dormant.)

In June, 1965, I started my first full-time job as a computer programmer. I was 21, with a B.S. in Math from Brooklyn Poly. Oddly enough, when I graduated Poly in ’64, I had no idea what I was going to do. I was not a great student, and knew right off I’d never make a great mathematician. And I didn’t play poker, a sign that my career in math would be limited. But along the way as an undergrad I had part-time jobs in the Brooklyn Poly computer center (IBM 650/7044)and learned Fortran and assembly language programming. I even got a teaching fellowship after graduation, the first the Poly computer center ever issued. I taught a course on programming, while at the same time taking Max Goldstein and Jack Schwartz’s Principles of Computation course across the river at the NYU Courant Institute.

This turned out to be a fortunate thing. Because after finishing Max’s course in the Spring of ’65 (I got an A with a term project simulating a Turing machine using a macro language for the IBM 7044), I informally asked Max for a job at NYU. Max was director of the Courant Institute computer center, then run by the Atomic Energy Commission. And I knew they were about to replace their IBM 7094 systems with a “supercomputer” – the CDC 6600.
To my amazement, Max mentioned that someone had just left the group and there was an opening. A few days later I had a job application in the mail and by June an office on the third floor of the new Warren Weaver hall on Mercer Street.

This was probably the most exciting moment in my life. The Courant Institute was world-famous in mathematics. And Richard Courant (a student of the great David Hilbert) was there, up on the 12th floor. I met Courant many times in the elevator. He wore sneakers but was always nattily dressed in suit and tie. There were many other famous middle-European ex-pats at the Institute, and I joined them every afternoon at 3 for tea in the lounge on the 13th floor.

I was 21 and in the company of some of the greatest minds in applied math.


End of Year Inventory

Here is an inventory of everything Georges Perec ate or swallowed in the year 1965:

Nine beef broth, iced cucumber soup, a soup with mussels. Two sausages Guéméné a sausage jelly, Italian delicatessen, a sausage, four charcutailles a coppa, three pork, a figatelli, foie gras, a cheese head, brawn pork, five of Parma ham, eight block , one block duck, pate de foie gras, a pie, a pie grandmother, a block from thrush, six block Landes, four snout, a mousse of foie gras, pig’s foot, seven potted , a salami, two sausage, hot sausage, terrine of duck, terrine of chicken livers. A blini, a empanadas, a meat of Grisons. Three snails.


Rudhyar Concert Booklet Online

The program booklet for next week’s Rudhyar Retrospective concerts in S.F. is now online, and it’s stunning!

Rudhyar Retrospective Concerts Booklet


News From Other Minds

Two important items to take note:

Number 1: Rudhyar in Retrospect, September 27 & 29, 2010


Monday, September 27, 2010
7pm Panel Discussion, 8pm Concert
Swedenborgian Church
2107 Lyon Street, San Francisco
reception at 6:30pm
$25 / $20 students & seniors

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
7:30pm Concert
Valley Presbyterian Church
945 Portola Road, Portola Valley
$20 / $15 students & seniors

PERFORMERS: David Abel & Julie Steinberg, Sarah Cahill, Ives String Quartet (more…)

Back Home

Portland, OR
(Portland, OR)

Back from a week in Portland, and a few days in Seattle. This time I drove up, and back. Almost 1800 miles round trip. Snow on Mt Shasta and the Siskiyou Pass at 4310 ft. And rain. Made for some interesting driving.

The Wall

The Berlin Wall came down twenty years ago today. Here are some pictures I took of the wall 34 years ago (1975):


Checkpoint Charlie (May 1975)





Many bombed-out buildings were left standing for decades by the DDR, perhaps as a reminder. My 1910 Baedeker says that Friedrichstrasse.. “is flanked with handsome and substantial business-houses, including the retail depots of several important breweries.” I have been unable to identify these two buildings, which I believe were on Friedrichstrasse. At least the restaurant Schweizerhaus on the right seemed to still be functioning. (May 1975)

As far as I can tell, none of this remains today.

Brandenburg Gate, from East Berlin looking into the West. The wall is just beyond the pillars.

More pix from 1975 at R.I.P. ?

You think good music on the radio is going from bad to worse in this country, just take a look at what’s happening in Holland, where good, serious music on the radio (and the internet) has been something we’ve all held for years as an example of what radio should be like.

As from coming November, the Concertzender will no longer be on air. NPO (Netherlands Public Broadcaster) has decided to shut down the Concertzender. The majority of the current programming of the Concertzender will not have a radio-output anymore.

Reason: the Concertzender as it is now, does not fit into the public broadcaster’s radio-policy anymore.

On top of that the current budget will be cut next year with 40% to 300.000 euro.
The Concertzender is shocked and speechless with this decision, since it will have a bigger impact than just ending a radiostation. The Concertzender was founded 25 years ago to provide for a radioservice that should focus on the music instead of commercials or dj’s.

Since then, musicians, composers, music-lovers, bands and orchestras make their contribution to our programs.  If we make a mistake, they correct us immediately and without compassion. But also they tell us how they appreciate the programs and how they value the absence of commercials and news-breaks.
The production method is unique for the past 25 years; a musical army of volunteers provide for a rich source of music and live-recordings that find their way to a faithful audience.

The Concertzender makes a difference by presenting musical originality and authenticity and by combining several kinds of music: thus presenting a musical surprise.
This formula seemed to be able to last for years… that is to say- at least 25!
We feel defeated by the idea that all this will end. It is typically Concertzender to consider all options to continue broadcasting anyway. We have a long history in surviving near-death situations.

So if you know of an asylum for a radiostation that is to become extinct, please let us know!
Until then – now more then ever – we invite you to enjoy our programs now that you still can! We are speechless with the devastating decision on our radiostation, but fortunately the music still speaks for itself…

I’m speechless too!

Kodachrome (1935-2009)

»RIP, Kodachrome.

Figaro 1966

One of my earliest Kodachromes, from 1966 .. Cafe Figaro, Greenwich Village. Now, not only are the urn and  the cafe gone forever, so is the film I used to take thousands of images.


Kodachrome Lyrics
Paul Simon


When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of edu—cation
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

If you took all the girls I knew
When I was single
And brought them all together for one night
I know they’d never match
my sweet imagination
everything looks WORSE in black and white

They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
Leave your boy so far from home
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome

Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

Epiphany Sixty-Five

rchrd at 65The trouble with having been born on January 6th is that every birthday I expect something new to be revealed to me. Some sort of epiphany to come my way. Lately, I’m left still waiting. We’ll see about today.

Being born in the middle of winter, right after the holidays, doesn’t leave much to look forward to. It’s a pretty dark time of year. Bad time for birthdays. At least in the Northern Hemisphere.

I’ve been pretty grumpy the past month or so. Not much to smile about. Things seem to be going from bad to worse. Mention a topic and it’s never been as bad as now. And in 5 years I’ll be 70. That’s too scary to contemplate. So that’s why the sour face.

The future is getting really scary. Even with big, historic changes in Washington. I’m hoping for a personal epiphany this time, tho. And a quiet day.

Sitting on a cornflake
Waiting for the van to come
Corporation T-Shirt
Stupid Bloody Tuesday
Man, you been a naughty boy
You let your face grow long

At least it’s not as bad as last year.


Turned on the ham radio this afternoon and made two contacts in Japan on the 20m band!
First for the new year and first to Japan in many many months.

We are, after all, at a low point in the sunspot cycle.

Still, it was exciting to know that the radio still works. Haven’t turned it on in months!




This One


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Richard Friedman lives in Oakland, CA, is a freelance tech writer/editor, web designer, photographer, is a Director of Other Minds, wrote his first computer program in 1962 for the IBM 650. It played dice. He is also a ham radio (AG6RF) operator, and he also takes a lot of photographs, composes music, and does a weekly radio program on KALW called Music From Other Minds.
He is not Kinky.

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RCHRD@SUN My blog about computers, computer history, programming, and work.

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Other Websites Worth Visiting:
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What Is This?

I started All I Know in June 2004 using Pivot, and
All I Know² Second Edition, in September 2006 using Movable Type.
This is All I Know³ Third Edition, started in March 2008 using WordPress. Read more.

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Archives of all the entries in the First and Second Edition are located on the old archives page

A project of Other Minds, makes globally available rare and underexposed content documenting the history of new and experimental music.

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